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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Fading Gigolo

Sofia Vergara hooker John Turturro Spike Lee Hot Legs
If you’re looking for a threesome with John Turturro, Woody Allen’s stylings and Hasidic Brooklyn, start taking off your pants.

Director, writer and actor Turturro has cast himself as a leading man. He plays ladies’ man Fioravante and Woody Allen plays his lifelong friend, Murray.

An offer for a suitable partner for a ménage a trois sets up an implausible plot where Murray becomes a pimp for his cash-strapped friend (and first time gigolo), Fioravante. The unlikely pairing of Allen and Turturro in these roles was obviously built for immediate humor and they definitely provide that.

You can almost see how the female characters assume this gigolo, who gets his hands dirty, could be worth their money because he’s “disgusting in a very positive way.” Almost. It’s really difficult to grasp why every woman in the film is dumb enough to fall for all of this, and that’s where the film fails.
That aside, Turturro directs his characters with some lovely performances. Sharon Stone plays vulnerable and understated. Sofia Vergara is less cartoonish than I expected she could be. French singer Vanessa Paradis makes us believe her ridiculous story is sweet and not cruel. And Allen gives one of his most relaxed performances — ever.

Sometimes the dialogue, the jazz soundtrack and the enchanting New York setting tossed me into the wonderful world of a Woody Allen film. Sometimes I was thrilled that I had landed in a modern Moonstruck. Too many times I thought I was watching a bad Turturro dream.
But the sweetness of the film, and the small moments throughout, made up for the thin plot — and I was charmed-off-guard.

Simply put: Not top shelf, but it’s funny and more charming than it should be.

Award potential: Nope. Director Turturro pulls some great performances out of everyone, but he didn’t write the characters as strong as Allen does.

The ten buck review: Worth ten bucks.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Ralph Fiennes Oscar nomination
The fantastic Mr. Anderson creates a new Old World

Wes Anderson's new film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, is a visually stunning comic film set in an Old World hotel in Zubrowka, a fictional '30s European nation. It’s full of Wes Anderson’s trademark whimsy and it’s another showcase of how evolved Anderson is at crafting delightful cinematic visuals.

The plot, like many Anderson films, isn’t worth commenting on. Unfortunately, neither are the characters. I respected this new Wes Anderson film, and many are calling it his masterpiece, but I wish I had enjoyed it more. I’d love to watch the sled scene again or actually visit any of the oversized buildings shown onscreen, but I just can’t fully recommend the complete two hours.

Simply put: Wes Anderson’s visuals and universe are delightful to watch, but without characters to care about, I was ready to check out early.

Award potential: Ralph Fiennes pulls off proper Anderson comedy and I hope he joins the team again, but there’s not enough here for award consideration.

The ten buck review: Barely worth ten bucks.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Muppets Most Wanted

Is muppets most wanted any good?
“We’re doing a sequel, that’s what we do in Hollywood, and everybody knows that the sequel’s never quite as good” – a song from Muppets Most Wanted
Muppets Most Wanted  follows 2011’s The Muppets, but lost most of the charm and feel-good fun that Jason Segel brought to the script and screen when he re-introduced the Muppets to the world.

It starts promisingly with another fabulous Brett McKenzie (Flight of the Conchords) song about the limits of doing a sequel. And then the film delivers on that very thing.

The actors don’t help the convoluted story about a world tour, espionage and a Kermit lookalike who’s a criminal mastermind.

Ricky Gervais seems uninspired by his uninspiring role and Tina Fey may laugh and enjoy her own performance as a prison guard, but no one else will. 

Luckily Ty Burrell decided to bring something comedic to this movie and has a few funny moments with the Sam the Eagle and many of the Muppets that hint at what this movie should have been.

Simply put: Two kermits are not better than one. It’s always fun to see the Muppets, but I don’t see much fun here for the kids or adults.

Award potential: None of the songs will challenge the Man or Muppet Best Song Oscar win.

The ten buck review: Not worth ten bucks.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Avengers 4
I should warn you — I have superhero fatigue.

Chris Evans returns as the Cap', in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, to defend America’s ideals in the modern world.

I should note that I walked into this film with a super case of superhero fatigue, but this film entertained me. It’s a little more on the Iron Man and Avengers side of the comic book spectrum; not The Hulk, Iron Man 2, Fantastic Four, Amazing Spiderman side.

For starters, there’s no origin story. And there’s no baddie who accidentally turns himself into a powerful monster. As part of a more complex storyline, Cap finds a marvelous villain in modern government and the very military unit he defends. And who better to head that group up than — Robert Redford, star of 70’s paranoid movies (3 Days of the Condor, All The Presidents Men).

The banter is witty, the one-on-one fights are fun and curves are thrown at you at unsuspected moments. And by curves, I mean Scarlett Johansson, winning in her sidekick role. Eventually, the plot and the action got bigger and my interest got smaller.

Simply put: In the world of comic book films, this is a hero.

Award potential: None, but the FX are just right.

The ten buck review: Worth ten bucks.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Dom Hemingway

Dom Hemingway review
The film is a wreck. So is its best scene.

It’s easy to see why the thespian in Jude Law would want to sink his teeth into the raunchy, foul-mouthed cocksure character known as Dom Hemingway, as the film is filled with showy speeches and outrageous dialogue.

It just never seems clear why we should care about this criminal, his friend Dickie (Richard E. Grant) or this thin plot. The film starts wheels off (with an unforgettable opening scene and the most inventive onscreen car crash to date) and settles down into a safe ending for the safecracker who wants to re-connect with his estranged daughter.

Simply put: Jude Law has fun with the verbose and raunchy role, but it’s a long 93 minutes when you don’t care about the character or plot.

Award potential: None, but Jude Law does impress.

The ten buck review: Not worth ten bucks.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014


theo james next movie
Divergent is many things. "Entertaining" is not one of them.

Divergent, based on the first novel in the young adult series, is an action-adventure film set in a world where people are divided into distinct factions based on human virtues.

For most of the film Shailene Woodley, a talented standout in The Descendants and The Spectacular Now, plays the main character Beatrice (Tris) as a quiet, contemplative girl who has to choose her faction and then compete to stay in it. Whether she’s in a dream sequence (yawn), an action sequence (just OK) or just staring at the ground (she’s as bored as I), I kept wondering exactly what Tris is thinking about.

There are a lot of storytelling problems with this movie and it just seems to be going through the motions.

As far as the stars: Shailene Woodley gets a pass, my fave Kate Winslet needs to return her Oscar for overacting and Theo James might just be a new star if he can remove his unintentionally funny tattoo — and remove himself from this 3-movie mess.

Simply put: The book has a lot of intriguing thoughts and suspense, but unless the heroine is thinking about these things, I couldn’t find them in the movie.

Award potential: None.

The ten buck review: Not worth ten bucks.